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#5312: Fwd: Fw: Stance on Haitian refugees is immoral (fwd)

From: Nancy Mikelsons <Nancy.Mikelsons@pobox.com>

>(Reading Hiaasen sometimes makes me wonder why I bother to write at all,
>when he says it so much more effectively.  If this were my article, I would
>change the words "just as repressive" to "far more repressive", since I
>don't think one has to accept the US stereotype of Cuba as a "repressive"
>government, and I think  it should be made clear that under normal
>circumstances any "arm-twisting"  needed in Havana for a mother to get  a
>visa to see a son with leukemia would be needed at the US Interests Section,
>not from the Cuban government. But in all other respects, I can only say
>these could be my own words, and I wish they were read more widely. Please
>pass this around.)
>                    THE MIAMI HERALD
>        News Perspective Opinion
>                 Stance on Haitian refugees is immoral
>         After the events of last week, people are more perplexed than
>ever about why U.S. immigration policy treats Cuban migrants so
>differently from Haitians and all others.
>         Forty-three Haitians in two groups were picked up in Broward
>County after being smuggled ashore. They were quickly taken into custody
>and sent to the Krome Detention Center to await hearings that might not
>happen for months.
>         Meanwhile, nighttime smugglers were delivering a group of
>Cubans near Big Pine Key. They were taken to Krome for processing, not
>incarceration, and prepared for release. One group of refugees gets a
>free pass while the other gets locked up. That's not only unfair, it's
>         While the United States can't throw open its borders to all the
>world's poor, it can at least be even-handed about letting people in.
>         Like most Cubans who take to the sea, Haitians flee not because
>they're political but because they're poor, frustrated and running out
>of hope.
>         In fact, Haiti today is vastly more impoverished, unstable and
>dangerous than Cuba. If anything, you'd expect the U.S. government to be
>more, not less, sympathetic to the Haitian plight.
>         And that might be true if U.S. policy was based on need and
>compassion instead of political expediency.
>         Consider the government's perverse ``wet foot, dry foot'' rule,
>under which Cubans intercepted at sea are sent home while those who make
>it to shore are allowed to remain. Imagine the deluge of humanity if
>such a doctrine extended to all immigrants who dream of reaching
>America: Once you touch a toe on the beach, you get to stay!
>         A half-baked reaction to waves of rafters from Cuba, the ``wet
>foot, dry foot'' allowance is not available to any other immigrants who
>set out for America -- even those from regimes just as repressive as
>Fidel Castro's.
>         Democracy exists only on paper in Haiti, but the INS stance
>toward its refugees is more of a ``white foot, black foot'' policy -- if
>your foot is black, you're going back.
>         The Clinton Administration, like those of Bush, Reagan and
>Carter, denies there's racial bias in the way it screens immigrants. Yet
>the law is inherently discriminatory, favoring Cuban migrants, who are
>mostly white, over Haitian migrants, who are mostly black.
>         Last week's embarrassing juxtaposition of refugee landings was
>a public exercise in de facto bias -- the white folks go free and the
>black folks get a bunk at Krome. Welcome to America.
>         Understandably angry, South Florida's Haitian community has
>renewed its plea for equal treatment. That'll never happen as long as
>politicians think they can win votes by playing favorites. Imagine if it
>had been Haitians, not Cubans, who had swiped a crop-duster for a dash
>to Florida, but crashed in the ocean within sight of their homeland.
>         Think they'd get a Coast Guard escort to Miami? Not a chance.
>They'd be back in Port-au-Prince by nightfall.
>         The Cubans who ditched that plane far from any U.S. shore were
>allowed entry here in spite of the ``wet foot, dry foot'' rule --
>demonstrating how open-minded immigration authorities can be in an
>election year.
>         With Florida up for grabs in the presidential race, there was
>no way the administration would hand the people on that plane back to
>         So exceptions to strict policy are made -- and swiftly, when
>         Why, then, did it take so long for the government to reverse
>itself in the case of Marie Sanon? She's the Haitian woman whose teenage
>son, Gallando Etienne, is hospitalized with leukemia at Broward General
>Medical Center. Twice Sanon asked the U.S. Embassy for permission to
>visit Gallando, and twice she was turned down. The boy's own doctors
>said he was depressed and in need of his mother, but that wasn't good
>enough for Washington.
>         What a different story this would've been if Gallando and his
>mom were Cuban. Rather than denying her a humanitarian visa, the State
>Department would have been twisting arms in Havana to get one for her.
>         After an upswell of outrage in South Florida, including from
>many Cuban Americans, the government changed its mind Thursday and
>agreed to let Marie Sanon travel from Haiti to see her son.
>         It's heartening when human decency prevails, but Haitians know
>better than to get their hopes up. First in suffering, they've always
>been second in line.
>                 Copyright (c) 2000.Miami Herald
>Courtesy of:
>The Law Office of Jose Pertierra
>1010 Vermont Avenue, NW #620
>Washington, DC  20005
>202 783 6666

Nancy Mikelsons          Nancy.Mikelsons@POBOX.COM